Jerk Chicken with El Senor

Thanksgiving Eve, I went to Church. How or why you may ask? I owed my broker DL, also a pastor, a phone call from last week. ((how he works in both real estate and religion is beyond me. Aren’t they essentially opposites??))

DL called the day before to check up on the status of exiting my lease with the landlord. I called him right before yoga to thank him for his concern and let him know everything was taken care of. He casually asked what I was doing Wednesday night (nothing. I just flew to NJ for Diwali two weeks ago and didn’t plan on going home so no plans for turkey day in SoFlo) . He suggested I come to Thanksgiving dinner held at a Baptist Church in Miramar, about 15 mins away. I hesitated yet, for one reason or another, I felt compelled to go. Maybe it was because I had no T-Day plans. Or maybe I just wanted to go to Church. Plus I’ve never been to a Baptist Church before, so isn’t now as good a time as ever? (said no one…but really, it was a good experience). I confirmed my spot for The Church’s Thanksgiving gathering. I assumed the dinner would take place inside the Church (again, first time Church goer here) so I wondered, what does one wear to a Baptist Church? I had no clue. I figured being formal was a safe bet: a black blazer, royal blue dress shirt and black pants it was.

AK came over for a quick catch-up and considered coming to the Church but opted out. Soon after, I left to pick up a small dessert at Publix before heading over to the Church later that evening. Once I arrived I called DL when his daughter E answered. She would come find me since getting into the gymnasium was a complicated feat. I waited till I couldn’t wait anymore and took it upon myself to navigate my way through the Church grounds into the gymnasium. How complicated could it be? Follow the signs for the gym, easy enough. I passed a room with Asian lettering hanging on a board above the door. I wondered where in the world I was. I entered the gym, DL seemed surprised I had found my way.

How did you get here? he asked.

“Two Japanese men unloading items from a truck let me in through the back gate.”

“Oh the Korean group!” Smooth.

DL immediately introduced me to everyone around him, including his family, his daughter’s fiance, his family, and basically anyone that came up to say hello to him. It was clear I was DL’s guest and he wanted to make sure I felt comfortable. I quickly realized DL and I had matched: a formal jacket, a blue shirt and black pants. I dressed like the pastor.

It was an informal gathering in the Church’s gym. I didn’t even know Church’s had gyms.  I chatted it up with E, her fiance, his brother, and mother whom I sat with. It felt nice doing something else, outside my realm of comfort. I somehow operate well in that indifferent space…

The evening’s proceedings were held in Spanish. DL would say a few words, offer a prayer, then members from their two churches would share testimonials about their experience with God (or as referred to in the Church, El Senor). The religiousness of the night somehow didn’t freak me out. I wasn’t looking to get enlightened or Go to God. I was simply an observer witnessing what it’s like to be amongst the Baptist Church folk. And so far, it felt welcoming.

E’s fiance worked as a part-time professor, had another part-time gig, and also sat with the homeless youth Monday nights outside of Starbucks in Young Circle. His mother was quiet, behaving as though she felt out of place. She was a sweet lady who looked like she’s struggled hard in life just to get by. She shared that she worked in Long Branch and Red Bank for a short stint. She would take the bus to New York, recalling its lengthy journey. The fiance’s brother went to Berklee for 8 months.

“Why 8 months?”  I asked. “It’s expensive”, he said.

South Florida has lots of financially struggling, homeless and poor people in its local bubbles, especially Hollywood. I never lived in an area like that before. Or the population had such extremes economic and social extremes, like Bombay (which is a different kind of poverty) or low-income households, that the contrast of rich and poor made up for any obvious signs of strugglers. Messed up I know but that’s life.

The dinner was potluck style. When dinner was being served people lined up quickly. Not as quickly as Indians in a buffet line but fast enough that I chose to sit out till the line calmed down. Bad idea. While Indians may be the most frustrating bunch in any sort of queue, they at least are speedy about it. They get their food and go. The Spanish folk seem to take their time. The line was moving at a deathly pace so I finally gave in and tagged onto the tail end, where I chatted with DL’s nephews. By the time I made it up to the table, the jerk chicken that DL so passionately spoke about was gone. I got the scraps. They were delicious. I ate other meats I don’t normally eat but it was all delicious. Especially that jerk chicken.

It was almost times for testimonials, but before that, it was music time. E and two others sang religious songs in Spanish. DL’s son manned the speaker system station, making sure he properly projected the Spanish lyrics of the songs on the overhead screen. I sang along because, why not? When in a Church gymnasium…

As people made their way up to the microphone to share their testimonials, I had to concentrate hard to understand them. It’d been awhile since I tried to understand the Spanish that floated around me. I got the jist of it but didn’t care enough to pay attention to the nitty gritty. Plus in Hollywood, I didn’t meet as many Latin Americans as in Miramar or Pembroke Pines. I wanted to know what they were saying and what their experiences were about so I listened so hard to the nitty gritty so much so that head started to hurt. WAY too much concentration for one night. Sad that my Spanish skills dwindled down to this point. I remembered the days of fluent Spanish to taxi drivers in Madrid.

But I understood the majority of what the speakers shared. I could even relate to some of their stories–It’s interesting how their ‘testimonials’ reminded me how in Buddhism we are encouraged to share experiences in faith. We also sing songs related to the fundamentals of Buddhism. It seemed so similar.

Here were some highlights from the night

-the first woman to share said how El Senor helped her to conceive and safely deliver to her daughter Sofi, who was there that night.

-the next person shared how they financially struggled that year but God helped them get through it.

-the older woman made her way up there. it was long-winded speech she made but the crux of it comprised of : “Some people say, yes I believe in God, I believe in God. But they don’t really understand what that means. They don’t carry God in their heart. Tests and difficult times are important and God does this to make your life even better later on.”

After awhile, I started to tear up. Even though I didn’t understand the details of what everyone had to share, it made me emotional. The way a person talks, even if it’s in another language, you still can feel their heart, the emotion of how they speak allows you to understand them even if the words aren’t there.

“This is so amazing,” I thought. how many people gather in this room to share their experiences in faith, with God, whatever you want to call it. Positivity poured through the microphone into the well-lit gym.

Towards the end of the night, we gathered in a circle to hold hands, forming a prayer circle. My first real prayer circle. A man who wasn’t DL said a prayer. With my head down, I held the fiance’s mothers hand in my left and a young girl’s on my right. It was powerful.

The takeaway for me?  Everything is the same. Religion is a conduit to the ocean of life. It is a means to an end. To get caught up in the specificities attached to any one religious brand is missing the bigger picture. Know yourself. Know your worth. Have faith and love. And in the end, know that we may all look very different but we are made up of the same things.

I was thankful for DL’s invitation. I was more grateful than ever that no matter where I go, I’ve relied on the kindness of strangers and been met with sincerity and an open heart. I hope to be able to return the favor to others someday.

Old Love: The Couple Who Could Be

Similar to my last post on dining alone with a dead cell phone, traveling alone forces you to pay attention to your surroundings. Most of the time I travel alone. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? Agreeing to get in a large, contained vessel with a bunch of strangers to ascend more than 30,000 miles up in the air, putting your life in the hands of someone you don’t even know? Okay, maybe that’s the paranoid version of flying alone but it’s what I recently felt when flying to Fort Lauderdale.

After acting wretched to the woman checking me in for my flight, I knew I was in need of a chill sesh. I acted out of emotional stress, frustrated by the miscommunications between airline staff and customers traveling alone with a disability, the end result working against me. The painkiller I had taken the night before did me in–it wasn’t helping to ease any of my anxiety or body aches for that matter. The only plus point discernible from taking that evil little pill was all that anxiety made me overwhelmingly tired and I managed to fall asleep on the plane, a rare occurrence.

I’d like to believe my unconscious state is why I failed to notice the two men sitting in my row were a couple. A gay couple. An OLD gay couple! I was instantly thrilled upon discovering this and wished I hadn’t fallen asleep so as to take in more about my travel seat-buddies, whom I will call Frank and Willis.

As I sat down in my seat, I was drawn to the men’s age. I examined Frank’s (the female energy of the two) wrinkled, veiny hands; the folds of his skin overlapping making his hands appear long and Dumbledore-like. I instantly pinned these two men as cool, Brooklyn street-card-playing, trash talking grandpa’s headed down to join their old buddies at some mafia-driven circle in South Florida. Their gold jewelry prompted these mafia vibes. I had to resist the urge to ask them how old they were (thought I wish I had). Could you imagine?

I picked on a (small) something when I wasn’t approached with the same old-school chivalry, trust me, it’s not always the case, that possesses men to offer a hand or carry my bag (“Lady with a cane, can I help you? What’s wrong with ya leg?)  But really, I didn’t expect much from my seat companions–these guys had some years on them. They deserved to sit back and enjoy the show. As I approached my seat, cane steady, Frank said, “You gonna make it?” That’s it. I figured I would get a follow up question or comment upon sitting down but nothing. No plane talk. No friendly exchanges.This made them even cooler. Frank and Willis kept to themselves, observing the plane passenger traffic. Still in my drug induced state, I decided to join their people watching game.

Feeling residual shame from my behavior at check-in (I apologized to the counter woman), I avoided looking at passengers boarding in case I seemed familiar to anyone at check-in. That’s when the paranoia kicked in: I was certain something was going to go wrong on this plane. This would be my last flight, I just knew it. Things were operating too smoothly. Will there be a fire? A terrorist scheme? Is there an air marshall on board? A particularly boring looking, ethnically obscure young man entered the cabin. HIM! I chose him as the terrorist that would down our flight. He was wearing a suit two sizes too big and carried a small white bag from what looked like a Hudson News stand. Something about the way he carried that bag, walked onto our flight made me suspicious. This paranoia eventually wore off. But back to Frank and Willis.

Jewelry fit for a Don: Frank and Willis both had large, pronounced rings on their right hands. Frank wore his on his pinky finger while Willis chose to wear his on the often ignored index finger. Both were oval-shaped. Frank’s was a black stone with a gold base. Willis had classic gold. They both wore gold bracelets. Frank had two gold link chains on his skinny right wrist. He was a right-arm jewelry kind of guy.

I looked at Frank from the side while he nodded off to sleep; he was a handsome man. You could tell he was a catch in his heydays. Willis looked a few years older than Frank, chair-ridden without his walker or Frank’s assistance. Willis needed a wheelchair just like me.  Still, you could tell Willis was the one in charge. He was sneaky. The kind of sneaky where he’d poke up in butt with a cane or trip you with his walker.

I lowered the window shade so the light wasn’t in their eyes as attempted to nap. They popped back to life when the JetBlue Snacks and Beverages portion of the flight took place. They each took two snacks from the JetBlue Community Snack Basket. Frank opened a bag of chips for the both of them. Do grown men-folk share a bag of chips? Willis asked for a can of ginger ale that  they would split. Do grown men-folk spilt a can of soda? Frank opened his tray table to which Willis used as his own. Without processing any of this as couple behavior, I thought it was cute. Like an old bromance that lasted decades and didn’t have time for any embarrassment. Now that snack time was over, off to sleep for me.

I woke up from my scattered slumber to Frank’s voice–he sounded like a chain-smoking version of Ray Romano’s TV mother. Never would I have thought THAT voice came out of THAT man. I actually turned around to see if perhaps there was someone else this harsh, lady-like voice was emerging from. Nope, it was Frank. We were close to landing. As we approached the ground, Frank pointed out a popular church on US 1 from the window. He took out his flip phone to call Nancy. I had enough time to catch the adorable background picture on his cell phone of a elderly man. Maybe it was a picture of himself but I got the feeling it was Willis. Frank told Nancy they had landed safely. He planned to drop Willis at home. “I’m putting him upstairs and then I’m going to the grocery store to grab some things.” They discussed the details of their dinner. Soup and a sandwich. Frank got heated when he had to repeat these plans to Willis more than once. PUTTING YOU UPSTAIRS AND THEN IM GOING TO PUBLIX. YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY. NUTS I TELL YOU! Frank was aggressive but you could tell he loved Willis dearly.

We deplaned, waiting outside the gate for a crew member to push our wheelchairs. Frank, Willis and I made brief small talk. I learned they lived in Pompano Beach for more than 25 years. They were visiting family in NJ but it was too cold for them. Back to Florida they came.

The wheelchair guy walked up to his and asked Frank and Willis if they were together. “Yes, yes we are,” Frank smiled.

Phone Lives

Sunday was the Woman’s World Cup Finals. Team USA played against Japan and emotions were high–just coming off July 4th weekend, everyone was out to prove the depth of their American spirit by cheering on Team US whether or not they were a fan of the game. I don’t claim to be a raging soccer ( or ‘futbol’ ) fan but I like watching the sport. It’s simple enough–you kick around a ball, score a goal until you accumulate a certain number of points within a given timeframe, and bam, game over. That may as well be the description for every sports game that ever existed, but soccer feels simpler to me than say American football or ice hockey.

So back to this game–I was having a lazy Sunday at home and after rescheduling dinner plans with a friend, I decided to get my American game-face on and check out this match. I walked over to Chocolada cafe and to my surprise they had a jumbo-tron televising the live match outside the sports bar and the cafe.

At this point I realized my phone was on 6 percent battery and was rapidly advancing towards death. I had my charger with me but the closest outlet was behind a table not within reach or else, inside the cafe. “Do I really need my phone?”, I thought. I already posted a Snapchat that I was watching the game outdoors with real people, satisfying my social media ego for the day, wasn’t that enough? I was alone and didn’t need to get in touch with someone specifically so what did I need my phone for? My apt was 1-2 mins away and I considered myself to be pretty safe. It was decided. I’d let my phone die. Who cares?

Sitting alone with a dead phone people watching forces you to pay attention. And it’s amazing what happens when you look up. When I’m busy futzing around on my phone, time goes by and my mind turns off.  It goes into dull mode (kind of like airplane mode but for your brain) or autopilot of sorts. While phone surfing, I don’t need to think about any one thing or person. My thoughts are a scattered assortment of random bits.My mind has no focus or direction and yet, I am supposedly processing the information and images I’m being fed via my phone.

What happens when you look up? You’re brain switches on again. And here’s the real kicker: As I watched the crowd of close to 30 people around me, almost EVERYONE was on their cell phone. Some of the scenes I saw included a group of teenage boys (or so they looked) waving their phones around, screaming TEAM USA as they captured a Snapchat video moment; two older women took selfies struggling to get the game’s screening in the background; one table over 4/5 members of a family were all scrolling through posts on Facebook and Instagram; more Instas, more Snaps, more posts, more scrolling, more waving. No one was even talking on their cellphones, let alone to each other.

It was like being the sober person in a room full of drunks. Not having my phone to escape to or a companion to distract me, I paid careful attention to how much people around me were absorbed in their phone lives. It was frightening. I wanted to look over to someone, give them the “Do you see this?!” stare but no one was available. Not even the waitresses– they passed time between waiting tables on their phones or being humans and speaking to one another, yes! I have younger cousins with cell phone charger cases…YOU NEED TO LET YOUR PHONE DIE SOMETIMES.

Are the days gone of chatting with your table neighbor? Befriending a stranger or casual conversation with people in your immediate environment? A real live person, not someone message box or online encounter? Can people still do this? Not to say that I don’t get absorbed in my phone, I very much do. Hell, I’m ashamed to admit my phone is the last thing I see before I go to bed and first thing I wake up to in the morning. Sad but true. But I didn’t grow up with cell phones or technology the way kids do now (shit I sound old). I got a cell phone junior year of high school. I used a pay phone to PAGE my parents to pick me up from the mall. BEEPERS! A whole new world. I can disconnect and be okay. If my phone dies the world will still turn at the same angle on its axis just like it did when my phone had battery life. I’ll still breathe, life will go on.

I tried explaining this to a colleague recently, the idea that I didn’t need my phone. That I didn’t really care if it died. Her response was, “I feel like I can’t breathe without my phone! I would die!.”

“No, no you certainly would not,” I assured her.

I’m pleased to say I sat at the cafe without my phone for close to 3 hours, maybe more. Sure, when I got home I plugged it and resumed my phone life: checking messages, emails, apps, whatnot. But it was nice to break off from it, or at least know that I still can.

My cousin recently got the Apple Watch. “I love it!”, she exclaimed. “I would miss so many messages and phone calls because my phone is in my bag and my bag isn’t always with me.” She had a point. There is an advantage but how do you know when enough is enough?

My doctor mom shared her feelings about the Apple Watch, “I think it’s going to give everyone cancer in 10 years. Wrist Cancer. Just wait and see.” To this my cousin threw her watch off. Okay, time for a break.

Award time!



Last year, I was awarded the Liebster Award by my fellow blogger-friend Aalif of

Thank you Aalif for the award and I’m excited to FINALLY post about it!!


  • 1. List random facts about yourself
  • 2. Answer 11 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
  • 3. Create 11 new questions
  • 4. Nominate 11 bloggers of your choice for the Liebster Award
  • 5. Tell the person who nominated you, along with the bloggers whom you’ve nominated

Here we go!


  1. I have no middle name
  2. I’ve lived in India more than the US for the last two years
  3. I still think my old Blackberry was the best phone ever.
  4. I am superstitious
  5. I prefer savory to sweet
  6. I don’t know how to pump gas (I blame a New Jersey upbringing for this)


  1. What is your favorite movie which as a spiritual theme or message? – Meet Joe Black, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt
  2. Which book has influenced your life the most? –No one book in particular. I recently enjoyed reading ‘Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls’ by David Sedaris. I love his simple writing style and biting sarcasm.
  3. Is there any current line/mantra that works for you whenever you remember it? Life is short. Live it well.
  4. A childhood friend/lover who you wished you knew where they were now? –Brittney Shells. She moved away in 2nd grade and I always enjoyed playing with her hair clips.
  5. One quality you wished you had more of? –Rigidity
  6. Your single most favorite blog post ever? –Probably the piece I recently wrote on graffiti:  It was incredibly fun to write and explore street art in Mumbai!
  7. The spiritual teacher who has inspired you the most? -I learned a lot from Swami Rama’s books. I’ve stayed at the Himalayan Institute and I like his spiritual philosophies. I believe you can take inspiration from anything/everywhere so it doesn’t have to be one person (or spiritual leader) that does it for you.
  8. Your escapist fantasy life looks like..? –The Great Gatsby
  9. The one addiction you wish you could get rid of? –Biting my nails
  10. On your last day on earth you would..? –Spend it with family on the beach
  11. Your favorite city in the world is? –I haven’t been to all the cities in the world, but so far I’d have to say New York, baby.




  1. What inspired you to start your blog?
  2. Share a link to your favorite post. Why is it your favorite?
  3. How do you deal with writers block?
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  5. Dream job?
  6. The wisest person you ever met?
  7. What is the worst book you ever read?
  8. Dogs or cats?
  9. Most memorable trip?
  10. Any advice for other bloggers out there?
  11. Where do you find most of your inspiration?

Happy blogging!

Neither here nor there

I remember when M visited India and stayed with me in my apartment for the first time, her reaction to doing housework was one of absolute horror.

“I’m in India! I can’t wash dishes and I will not cook’

I found this amusing mostly because she does everything by herself at home and hardly complains about it. Housework in India was apparently a completely different chore. Because of the availability of help/ labor in India, it’s relatively inexpensive and common to have household help–a maid/cook/driver/whatever else you don’t want to do yourself. Coming India meant sitting back and relaxing while someone else did the heavy lifting. I think of M’s reaction when I’m rinsing out my morning cup of tea or dare to experiment with cooking in my lovely large and well-stocked kitchen….

The last month has been one of flirting with recipes-Indian and non-Indian. Jaya (my maid/cook/Jane of a million trades) has recently caught the ‘recipe’ bug. When she’s finished with her work, she sits downs in front of the television and watches Sanjeev Kapoor famously work his magic in a kadai( an indian wok), conjuring up delicious subzis and Indian meals. I watch with her—there’s a heavy punjab sikh man with a chinstrap beard who seems to specialize in cooking fried foods and readily gobbling up his creations; another channel shows an Indian woman who seems, well, bored. Its clear a show on the cooking channel is certainly a job more than a passion. I can tell Jaya genuienly enjoys what she does, one of the many qualities I admire about her. She’s always sports a smile and knowing that she’s interesting in upping-the-ante when it comes to her skills makes me think she’s a smart, smart women. She’s investing time in jazzing up her talents. I silently acknowledged her business acumen, excited for new yummy dishes.

On Holi (spring festival or festival of colors) I did not celebrate color at all. I stayed indoors and cooked and cooked and cooked. I cooked the most I’m sure I’ve ever cooked in my life, for myself. It was more out of curiosity rather than hunger– I wanted to see  whether or not I could actually last that long in the kitchen, a great, productive and creative way to test my stamina. I want to take as much advantage as I can of having fresh market greens and produce available so very easily. Going to Pali Market to pick up groceries is way better than standing in line at Shoprite, that’s for sure. Also, it’s been a pain in the ass trying to find good salad dressing around here (I asked a friend from NY back in Dec to bring a bottle or two with her when she was visiting that month, but the ‘great moving crisis of Jan’ prevented us from refrigerating certain items and so the dressing had to go. I grew tired of my standard olive oil and balsamic mix. It was time for some experimentation in the the kitchen.

The menu of Holi included:

-mini minced chicken burgers with chopped vegetables

-fresh broccoli and cheese soup


-arugula salad with walnuts

-veg sandwich with pesto sauce

-pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and broccoli

and last but certainly not least,

-roasted red pepper dressing

Okay so, clearly this was also done in an effort to get rid of some of the crap that’s accumulated in my fridge. Roasting the red pepper was especially hard work, not to mention extremely extremely satisfying. It took 2 hours to properly roast the peppers on the stove grill before I could peel back the tinfoil and begin stripping the skins from the peppers. It was intense. It reminded me of Michael Pollen’s book “Cooked’ which I started last summer and only halfway got through. In it was a chapter on the chemistry of cooking–what happens when something is caramelized or roasted, barbecued or fried. The chemistry and makeup of the pepper completely changed in the time I roasted on the fire, double and triple wrapped in tinfoil. What was once a sharp, crisp and juicy red bell pepper turned slimey, smooth and sweet. It was amazing. The heat changed everything. I left the pepper in the foil for about 15 mins after I roasted them because the steam was supposed to set in and lock in some of those juices, at least thats what the recipe said. INCREDIBLE. Yes, I realize the drama here but c’mon, I just did some scientist type shit in the kitchen! Of course I’ve had red bell peppers before and OF COURSE I’ve had roasted red peppers, but I’ve never actually MADE RRPS! I’ve only ever bought them bottled at the store, the way I’m sure most of us have.


Needless to say this ain’t no Julie and Julia but it’s still been fun, this whole cooking thing. It’s a nice pastime and a healthy habit. Jaya watches cooking shows at home and recently made a new type of muttar-paneer, (i think she added clove?) but it was simply delicious. This week we are experimenting with channa (chole, or chickpea dishes) and veg pizzas.

Bon appétit!

A few fun pictures below and above.

Whilst steaming en foil:











The heat is on

Saturday started off in Pali and ended up at Bonobo later for Mad Boy Mink. I entered just as MBM was hitting the stage. I liked the set a lot, bopping my head to the Looney-Tooney vibe of their hip-hop mixed songs. It was a weird crowd–nights out can be trippy if not approached with a certain amount of realization. I looked around to see a conservative-looking Indian woman in a full-on bordered silk sari, hair braided and all. She couldn’t have just come from a wedding, her outfit wasn’t jazzy enough. I see a group of hysterical white girls in the corner. Tall foreigners stood out.  I continue to scope the room when R and I see a man wearing a skirt. Not a dhotti, a girl’s skirt. Confused, we caught man-skirt’s attention and he bustled over to us. R was convinced this man lost a bet and had to succumb to the evils of his fulfilling said bet by wearing a skirt. But this was his own doing: he was throwing a hen party for his girl friend and he was collecting bad advice from girls and lipstick kisses from men. He wanted us to participate in his bachlorette-party games and so we did. We chose from a stack of cards for topic prompts and the boys generously applied red lipstick to their faces. Like I said, weird night. I failed to remember Bonobo was an outdoor bar and the 87 degree weather with 200 %  humidity was slowly killing me. The label on my Bud slipped off. Even my glue had given up. Nothing was going to last in this humidity myself included. I called the driver, we headed downstairs and all I could think was ‘thank god for air-condition and I can’t wait to shower.’

Today was the Flea Market–A company called Lil Flea was hosting a 2-day Flea Market on the grounds opposite Lilavati Hospital this weekend. My initial though upon hearing about the market? ‘You’ve been to one Flea Market, you’ve been to them all.” In a way, this is true. But I needed something to do this afternoon and it was an easy way to spend some money. I didn’t over-think, which usually happens when I plan to go to any festival/market/push-and-shove type atmosphere. I stood in a short line for no more than 2 mins before I entered. The grounds weren’t decorated in any ornate way but it was cool to see this sort of thing happening in the middle of Bombay. Sometimes I take certain things for granted living in Bombay–there are so many expats, so much access to foreigner goods and materials, and things like boozy brunches, brie, and gluten-free/vegan/kosher/ stuff happening here that its hard to believe your in India! I know for sure other parts of India have no clue what gluten-free means or that they can even pronounce kosher. I don’t blame them either. Being in Bombay is unlike being in any other part of India–it’s hip, open to new ideas, and always ready for the next big fad. I snatched up kitschy bags and scarves (my weakness), chatted up the Berlin-based brand owners and headed home.

My recent adventures with shopping have led me to discover just how out of touch I am with Eastern Fashion–I’m talking Indian clothes, people. I’ve been on the lookout for a nice Indian outfit for my friend’s wedding next month. I didn’t realize until yesterday how much I abhor shopping for Indian clothes. It’s manic. stressful. overwhelming. tiring. and expensive. I can’t remember wearing an Indian outfit more than twice over before it maintains permanent residence on my clothes hanger. We women try to justify it, saying we will ‘put it too good use’, promising ourselves and others that ‘that outfit WILL be WORN’. Lies. It’s also because I don’t like wearing Indian clothes. I don’t mind a salwar/kurta (basically a long dressy tunic with leggings and an optional scarf to drape over it). But I would take a blazer or shift dress any day. Indian fashion changes faster than it takes to get to Chembur to Colaba on a Wednesday afternoon. I bought fabric from Kari’s store that I could get an outfit stitched (fancy, I know, but custom-made clothes are very common). She took me to meet her tailor which felt like a spy mission. Her words: ‘Good tailors are top-secret info. You never share you’re tailor’s number with anyone!’ Adorable. We walked through the gully, into the tailor’s, also named Kari, shop. As the master-ji took my measurements and we decided how I wanted the outfit to be cut, Kari was quick to call me out on my fashion ignorance. ‘Oh no no no no’, she exclaimed. ‘Short kurtas are out. Long kurta’s are in. No one wear’s short kurtas anymore, didn’t you know?!’ Clearly, I did not. I let her take the wheel on the stylistic nuances of my outfit (not forgetting to add my 2 cents of course: cut the shoulder width, make me look skinny!). I searched for an outfit for my friend’s wedding on Saturday and nearly lost it. Too. many. choices. There is an endless supply of ways to make women look colorful and shiny. I decided to go to one shop later this week and choose whatever was in front of me. Wham bam done.

You say Tomato…

Here’s a (running) list of Indian euphemisms/my translation of words I didn’t understand upon first arrival. I add to this list every so often, as I come across things I find amusing. Some are silly, some make no sense and others make more sense than the intended word:

Choco-block = a hectic day; back-to-back plans

Very okay

Only = for example, ‘I was in Bandra, only.’

Man Friday = someone’s bitch; person that does everything for you; man of many hats

Chums = menstrual period

The use of babe in late 20-somethings vernacular (it’s seriously abused)

Intentional grammar errors = ie: u cud cum ovr tday, pls ty.

Chuck it versus fuck it

When someone pissed you off they ‘irritated’ you

Bang opposite = directly opposite

Faffy = an ass

Off = dead

Revert to as such (people love to use this in professional emails, idk why)

Most welcome = you’re very welcome

The abbreviated use of D to replace THE, re: Whatsapp

Me is busy = I am busy

Half Half in drinking means if you’re not on their level you need to chug half of your glass

Aggro = aggressive

Epic Rant

And so it begins…the epic rant that I’ve been avoiding ranting on about. Forgive me for this one but it needs to happen. Ever fiber of my being has tried to convince myself that I was ‘bigger than that’; it was trivial and it didn’t matter so much, that I’d get over it. The last part may be true– I will eventually get over it. But when my chest swells with anger at the very thought of it, I can’t deny it bothers me. What I’m talking about here is a bad haircut.

Hair does something for a woman that other things can’t. I could continue on about the femininity that is attached to hair and how we can often literally get so wrapped up in the stylistic variants and pleasure we woman get from our hair. But that’s not what this post is for. I’m here to rant about the awful haircut that was Shiva’s. I mention his name because if anyone does read this and needs a haircut in Bombay, stay far, far away from his clippers.

By now, I’ve made my rounds at beauty parlors across Juhu to Bandra. There are two I bounce between depending on what services I need. I haven’t gotten a haircut since September, before the big fat Russian/Turkish wedding. My hair didn’t grow out as expected and so I made a mental note to not return there when I was next in need of a cut. My hair grew unruly and difficult to manage. The humidity of Bombay (along with the hard water I supposed and pollution perhaps?) hasn’t exactly worked in my curly girl favor. I’ve come to adjust to life in Bombay but my hair was putting up a very clear fight.

After inquiring about a good hairstylist whom knew how to deal with curly hair I made the quick decision to follow my acupuncturists recommendation of a South Indian hair stylist named Shiva. I’m not South Indian but my hair is comparable to South Indian hair in all its thick and curliness so this seemed promising. “But don’t expect much, he’s very simple. Very good but very simple.” Perfect, I thought. A no frills award winning recommended stylist. “My acupuncturist would never lead me astray!” I thought. I trust her. I decided 5 months ago to trust her and it’s worked in my favor so this seemed no different. I made an appointment for the next day. When I walked in for the cut, I felt uneasy. ‘She wasn’t kidding’. It was beyond no-frills–the salon was dingy, at best. It was located in the posh area of Juhu and I had done my research online about the stylist. Google told me he’s done up most of Bollywood but I had to see it for myself. A part of me screamed ‘get the hell out of there, stat.’ But a bigger part of me said  ‘she warned me I would react this way. Just let it happen, Sonali.

Now to the scene of the crime—I explained to Shiva what I was looking for and he lazily agreed to deliver. I mentioned my nervous nature especially when getting a haircut. I know, I know, I need a hobby or a life, probably both. But again, forget the superficiality of it all and let me rant on. He proceeded to razor cut my hair, which I didn’t know till it was happening. It was all very surreal. I felt slices of hair disappear and before I knew it he handed me a bouquet of my hair, as if it he were being gentlemanly and my hair were a bundle of beautiful roses. I wasn’t able to process that moment until later. Just let it happen, it will come out nice. As the cut continued he had his staff hand me several magazines opening them up to the pages where he was pictured with celebrities and receiving awards. I could feel the anger and confusion building inside. WTF?!?! Is this man insane? I had my hair blown out and I reached towards the back of head. It felt thin, empty and flat. He was in no way interested in understanding how my curls fell or. He was an award-winning, competitive stylist who was also a sham. I came to learn later on that when a salon becomes a chain, many times stylists purposefully cut hair uneven or incorrectly in order to make its clients keep coming back to them. It didn’t make sense to me at first but eventually I came to see it worked; they would manipulate their client into believing their hair was one way or should be a certain way, and would continue to do this until their client actually believed it. Plus people are obsessed with straightening their hair. Curly hair is therefore not appreciated as much and so its rare to find someone who can cut it properly.  Sad but true. For Shiva, he was more interested in showing me his publicity and signs of recognition via beauty magazines.

I was so angry for so long. I told my acupuncturist about it and she suggested I pay him a visit again, that he would fix it. Fix it?! Hell no. I’m never going back there. I was so upset by it all that my anger even showed up in my Acugraph (this is a graph reading acupuncturists do to check your energy levels or chi). I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that I let this fool of man cut my hair and even worse that I cared about it so damn much. Morale of the story: listen to that inner voice when it tells you run far, far away from something. Also, live with your decisions, whatever they may be.

I’m not as angry as I was before. Hair grows back. Life goes on. We must keep moving forward. When you’re in a new city and don’t know better, you’re often reliant on someone else’s recommendation for your needs. No amount of online research could have told me Shiva’s sucked. Maybe bad haircuts are just a part of life. If one were to see my hair now they would like it wasn’t a big deal at all, it’s not as bad as I describe. The perfectionist in me smiles and says, ‘It’s not always going to work out in your favor, now.” All I know is that no matter how much I mature in life, I still feel as though a bad haircut will always certainly put me in a terrible horrible mood. END OF RANT.

Sincerely, 6 Months.

February 16th?! And so I ask, where has time gone? Where oh WHERE did January go? Time is flying by—I’ve been here exactly 6 months to the date. This is the longest I’ve stayed in India since my Pune days, circa 2008.

M has returned to the bitter cold weather of the tri-state. I hear from friends and family that this winter has been particularly awful; snowstorm after snowstorm with huge bursts of chilling wind and freezing rain. Sounds like a mess. A mess I am happy to not be a part of. Although Bombay has its flaws, the weather during this season is extremely pleasant, more so than any other part of India. It’s not humid nor is it too cold. The nights are breezy and the days are still warm enough to forget its mid Feb. There are quite a few people from the States visiting Bombay this time of year, many of whom I’ve met up with for a casual evening out. It’s nice because it lessens the pangs of any lingering homesickness I may feel. Lessens but doesn’t do away with. I came down with a hell of a cold a few weeks back—runny nose, congestion, facial tenderness, the works. I was so incredibly homesick. It came out of nowhere! Perhaps it’s the need for comfort in times of sickness that I become more apt to just let all types of emotions take over me. Homesickness doesn’t happen too often because India has sincerely become a second home to me—I’ve been traveling back and fourth for 6 years—and so it’s become second nature to dive right back into the ‘Indian ways’ once I arrive at CSI airport. I indulged myself in some good old-fashioned comfort foods and chatted with friends from home. Balance, it’s all about maintaining that balance.

I remember my arrival to Bombay airport this time around on August 16th and having the distinct feeling of “So…this is the new normal. Interesting.” The foul smells and broken streets no longer assaulted my senses. It wasn’t because the conditions improved at all but because I got used to it. A voice inside screamed, “This was never supposed to happen!!!” Balu picked Dad and I up from the airport that night and we arrived at a hotel, per usual. Everything we did our first full day out felt so very normal. I hated the familiarity of it all. I wanted to cling onto the idea of India as something else: a place that was removed from home, a foreign land. India as ‘the place I went to heal’ or ‘the land of spirituality and all things eastern’. [SHORT INSERT: I went to a party at Palladium Hotels’ EXO Lounge last month with a friend and I met a woman who worked at the Canadian Consulate. She did not hold back in the least in telling me how much she despised Bombay. She’d worked for the Consulate for many years and lived all over the place, she says. Rio was b yffar her favorite. But Bombay was not a happy match for her. Her job at the consulate is to help foreigners adjust to life in Bombay. What does that entail, you ask? “You know, most people come here to find themselves, seek out spirituality, all that.” I laughed because it was funny and because it was true. I was that person, I told myself. Her man-friend who also worked as a Consulate advisor for a country far more interesting than Canada later entered and I in turn exited to find my friend. END OF INSERT].

I didn’t want the feeling of everything being easy-breezy, plain, almost boring. The India I held onto and always brought back with me to America was becoming something of the past and New India was steadily approaching. This New India (or New Bombay, rather) where I would live and work just didn’t feel as special. It felt serious and dull. It wasn’t only the environment that felt routine to me but I found myself becoming inherently ‘more Indian’. Street beggars tapping at my car window no longer fazed me. I would stare straight ahead and disengage. I treated people differently than I did before; I always on the defense. I began to question everything and everyone around me. Part of my journey in carving out a space for myself here in Bombay clearly came with a large side of paranoia. Eventually I came to recognize it as such and stopped the craziness. I allowed myself to be comfortable with being comfortable here. I guess its safe to say I really started living in Bombay once I let that happen.